Rhinos continued their season by hosting Ollerton 1st XV at Mill Hill School.
Rhinos had a number of players missing but this gave them a chance to play some who hadn’t yet featured in the campaign so far and all 23 benefited from the run out.
Stand-in skipper Ben Smith ensured his side played up the slope in the first half but with the slight advantage of the wind blowing across the pitch.
Ollerton’s game plan was based around a strong pack and powerful runners in the backline and they troubled the maroons throughout the first 40 minutes.
Rhinos’ tackling was generally too high though scrum half Liam Murcott put in a sterling shift of defensive effort and full back Adam Insley was on top form.
Ollerton opened up with an early try and scored two more in the half, one through a Rhino error but one by shipping the ball wide.
Coming toward half-time and 19-0 behind, Ripley were staring at a heavy defeat.
They rallied and attacked the Ollerton 22 for almost the first time in the game, culminating in outside-centre Anton Brown dragging two players over the line to score from short range.
Fly-half Dave Trubee added the conversion and so the hosts went into half time 19-7 behind.
Rhinos took the opportunity to ring the changes in the second half and ensure every player got a decent run out.
Martin Seccombe came on for his debut and in a typically Rhino-esque manner, managed to play four different positions, all equally adeptly.
Ollerton continued to press but Ripley’s scramble defence worked well and the tackling improved.
The pack struggled manfully to ensure possession from their throws and put-ins but it was never quick and Ollerton could spoil a lot of it.
Ripley began to win more territory, with Brown being a key runner, and this culminated in loosehead prop Dave Kemp being the recipient of an overlap and he made the most of his chance to dive in and score.
Another Ollerton try followed to extend their lead to 24-10 but Rhinos weren’t finished and with Trubee and flanker Zeique Robinson linking up well in midfield, the back-rower set the backline away and saw winger Jamie Banks burst onto the ball.
He had a lot to do but some excellent footwork and evasive skill saw him touch down his first try for the club.
Ollerton were concerned and strove to further their lead and did so after a period of pressure, leaving Rhinos 29-17 behind.
Despite a couple of exciting breaks from Insley and Brown, Ripley couldn’t find the scores needed and came off the pitch narrowly defeated.
Despite some creaking in defence and the many changes they made, all the Rhino squad put in a sterling effort and made this a lot closer game than anyone would have expected.
Rhinos’ star man was outside-centre Anton Brown and he took the Abex Window Cleaning Contractors Man of the Match award from his team mates.
Pennant league action restarts this Saturday with both Rhino teams in action. The 1sts face a tough game against Paviors 3rds and the 2nds travel to Ilkeston 4ths in an equally challenging match, both 3pm kick offs. The Ladies are due to host Doncaster Demons Ladies on Sunday.